Croatia: Holocaust Memorial Vandalized — EU Silent about Resurgence of Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial

Croatia’s politicians push anti-Semitic laws to block return of private property belonging to Jews which were stolen by the pro-Nazi Croatian Ustasha government during World War II.

Croatia | From left: 1) Holocaust Memorial in Varazdin vandalized in November 2020. 2) Ante Pavelic (pronounced Pavelich), dictator of Independent State of Croatia — the pro-Nazi Croatian government in parliament (10 April 1941–8 May 1945). 3) A Jewish girl wearing a Jewish identification badge with the Star of David and “Ž” for Židov (Jew) in Croatian. 4) A train that carried Jews, Roma and Serbs to the Jasenovac extermination camp on the outskirts of Zagreb, Croatia.

January 3, 2021 | Washington, DC — Vandals sprayed a Swastika and the letter U on a newly built Holocaust monument situated right across a Jewish synagogue in the northern city of Varazdin, some 86 kilometers (54 miles) from Croatia’s capital city of Zagreb. The vandalism in Croatia took place sometime between November 7 to November 9, 2020, defacing the Holocaust monument built of bricks, which were made by victims of the Holocaust at the Jasenovac extermination camp.

The letter U represents the pro-Nazi Croatian Ustasha government during World War II which ran over a dozen concentration camps killing Jews, Roma, Serbs and political dissidents.

In yet another brazen and deplorable act to defile a Holocaust monument, the European Union’s (EU) ambassadors based in Zagreb, Croatia, Brussels’ institutions and governments on the continent remain silent about the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Croatia and Holocaust denial.

More than eighty percent of Croatia’s Jews were killed during World War II under the terror reign of the Ustasha (Ustaša), the pro-Nazi Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

Commencing in 1941, the Ustasha regime headed by Ante Pavelic, rounded up Jews, Roma, Serbs and other non-Catholic minorities, sending them to the Jasenovac concentration camp (one of the largest concentration camps in Europe), Sisak children’s concentration camp, and other locations. The Jasenovac concentration camp was referred to as “the Auschwitz of the Balkans.”

According to the Jerusalem-based Yad Vashem, “The concentration of Jews in camps began in June 1941. By the end of that year about two thirds of Croatia’s Jews had been sent to Ustaša camps, where most of them were killed on arrival. In August 1942 and May 1943 the Germans deported the remaining Jews from Croatia to Auschwitz. 30,000 out of Croatia’s 37,000 Jews perished in the Holocaust.”

Some 20,000 Jews of Croatia were murdered in the Jasenovac concentration camp alone, while the rest of the individuals were sent to their deaths in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Fabian Vendrig, a Dutch-born independent journalist, historian, and researcher writes:

What made Jasenovac particularly cruel was the existence of a special camp for children where an estimated 20,000 Jewish, Roma and Serb children were brutally murdered. The methods used by the Ustase guards to kill and torture the inmates were reportedly so barbaric that even SS chief Heinrich Himmler is believed to have suggested to the Ustashe that industrial killing, i.e. gas chambers, was a “cleaner way” to liquidate victims so that the guards wouldn’t need to use knives, axes, and other handheld weapons against those that they were sending to their deaths.

Menachem Shelah, a historian with the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, wrote in 1990 that “the crimes committed in Jasenovac are among the most terrible in the entire history of humanity.”

Source: https://www.neweurope.eu/article/jasenovac-the-forgotten-extermination-camp-of-the-balkans/

Through his research, Vendrig reported: “Much has been written and published about infamous camps at Auschwitz, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, and Treblinka, but few, outside of the Balkans, have heard about the Jasenovac extermination camp in Croatia, which was never liberated, but instead saw roughly 1,000 inmates escape in the hope that at least one of them would live to tell the world about the horrors of being imprisoned by the Ustase, the Nazi-aligned puppet government that was appointed to rule a part of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia.”

In learning of the Holocaust Memorial vandalized in Varazdin, Croatia, Israel’s Ambassador Ilan More shared his concerns via Twitter:

“I was deeply shocked and saddened to read the bad news(23.11) from #Varaždin.The newly erected Monument, honoring the memory of the Holocaust victims, located across the #Varaždin synagogue was vandalized. We really hoped that the new positive spirit of reconciliation nowadays. In #Croatia, would stop those extreme elements who deny the Holocaust and relativize the horrors of Ustasha regime. Unfortunately, I was wrong. But, I will keep sharing the lessons of the #Holocaust also as a warning.”

Ustasha (Croatian fascist) camp guards order a Jewish man to remove his ring before being shot. Jasenovac concentration camp, Yugoslavia, between 1941 and 1945. Photograph: Jewish Historical Museum, Belgrade

In an earlier report, the International Leaders Summit stated the following:

Croatia, a NATO member in the Balkans was taken to task for blocking the return of Jewish property through a public statement issued by two American Senators and a recent U.S. State Department report. In contrast, Serbia was publicly praised for Holocaust property restitution by the U.S. government through its official statements and the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade’s website.

The U.S. State Department’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act Report on Croatia released on July 29, 2020, stated the following:

“Croatia does not have adequate legal mechanisms to address Holocaust-era property restitution, and the government generally has not demonstrated the political will to return property taken from Jews during the Holocaust and after WWII. The U.S. government has long advocated with the Croatian government for restitution of Jewish individual and communal property, and for Croatia to develop a mechanism to address issues related to Jewish property rendered heirless as a result of the Holocaust.”

According to published reports, “…the Jewish Community of Zagreb estimated that Croatia’s government had returned no more than 2 percent of the value of Jewish communal and private property seized during the Holocaust.”

US Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) released the following statement on July 29, 2020:

“Political resistance in many countries has impeded the implementation of restitution legislation or otherwise hindered the resolution of Jewish communal property claims, including in: Poland, Latvia and Croatia.”

Elie Wiesel, the author of The Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, the Accident wrote these profound words:

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”

Unfortunately, the European Union and Western European governments have displayed a lack of moral authority and political will to address the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Croatia, compounded by the belligerence of other member states on the continent which continue to block the restitution of private property to Jews. When the rule of law is subverted and private property rights trampled, it adversely impacts the entire region’s population.

Once again, American leadership has been best exemplified by elected officials and engaged stakeholders in the United States of America pressing forward to holding to account European governments including EU member state Croatia.

If the EU is serious about being relevant on the vital fronts of the day, then it must first take full responsibility to address the serious problems in its own backyard before venturing beyond its borders. It is a worthy challenge for Europe’s stakeholders.

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